Knowledge, Skills, and Practices concerning Phonological Awareness among Early Childhood Education Teachers
Alghazo, Emad M., Hilawani, Yasser A. Al-, Journal of Research in Childhood Education
A sample of 83 kindergarten teachers participated in this study to examine their knowledge, skills, and classroom practices concerning phonological awareness. Analyses of data revealed significant gaps between knowledge and practice, knowledge and skills, and skills and practice. The gap between knowledge and skills, on one hand, and classroom practices, on the other hand, was significantly noticeable, an indication that participants did not practice, in reality, significant proportions of their knowledge and skills during teaching. Analyses showed that in-service training affected the result of this study and that skills in phonological awareness predicted classroom practices.
Keywords: kindergarten teachers, observations, phonological awareness, practice, self-reporting
Researchers revealed that children who do not receive good literacy preparation and come from homes with poor literacy experiences may be at risk for reading failure as they progress in schools (e.g., Dickinson & Tabors, 2001; see Justice & Ezell, 2001). One important aspect of literacy preparations is teaching children phonological awareness (PA) (Ball & Blachman, 1991; Blachman, Tangel, Ball, Black, & McGraw, 1999; Lonigan, Burgess, & Anthony, 2000), which deals with the degree of sensitivity that children have toward sounds in the language being used. Children who possess good PA have the ability to manipulate and detect sounds in words, independent of their meanings.
Researchers have identified the significant role of PA instruction in developing children's reading abilities (e.g., Ball & Blachman, 1991; Lyon & Moats, 1997; Pratt & Brady, 1988; Stanovich, 1991; Torgesen, 2002; Wood, 1999, 2000). After conducting a 2-year study, Bradley and Bryant (1983) reported that receiving explicit instruction in PA positively influenced reading ability. Authors mentioned that training in alphabetic principles, rhyming, identification of words, and alliteration strongly and positively affected children's reading ability. Stanovich (1986) mentioned that children with higher levels of PA skills progressed in their language skills better and quicker than those who started with little or low levels of PA skills. Peterson and Haines (1992) found that the effects of teaching kindergarten children PA skills in the form of orthographic analogies, based on alliteration and rhyming, varied according to whether or not the children were able to segment words. Orthographic analogy is performed by giving children a clue word (e.g., "beak") to help them read a new word (e.g., "peak") that shares a rime unit or an onset unit (e.g., "beak"-"bean") with the clue word. It amounts to decoding unknown words, phoneme by phoneme, based on knowledge of spelling patterns of known words. Foorman and Moats (2004) reviewed research-based practices in early reading instruction and found that PA--along with letter-sound identification and rapid naming, vocabulary knowledge, and word reading--are valid predictors for the identification of children at risk for reading problems (see also Torgesen, 2002). Finally, Vloedgraven and Verhoeven (2007) found, in a recent study, that rhyming performance, phoneme blending, phoneme identification, and phoneme segmentation are vital aspects of PA. These authors revealed that phoneme segmentation appears to be the most difficult and discriminating task, yet informative of children's PA ability, while rhyming performance appears to be the easiest task. However, the authors stated that the discriminating power of phoneme segmentation declined considerably as children enhanced their PA abilities in first grade, due to the start of literacy instruction with a focus on phonics.
In this context, instruction in PA and in phonological skills significantly improves reading and spelling, not only in normally developing children who have no academic problems, but also in poor readers who need special attention (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000).
THE IMPORTANCE OF TEACHERS' KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, AND PRACTICES OF PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS
Teachers' instructional approaches should be determined by the knowledge that children come to schools with diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences, and varied levels of abilities and exposure to literacy practices (Justice & Pullen, 2003). The research reviewed in this article indicates that teachers' knowledge of PA and their practical instructional skills to enhance it are necessary to help children succeed in early reading endeavors (e.g., Ball & Blachman, 1991; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1993). The research suggests that incorporating PA instruction into classroom teaching practices is one solution to literacy difficulties in reading (e.g., McCutchen, Abbott et al., 2002), that PA is strongly related to literacy development (e.g., Anthony & Francis, 2005), and that kindergartners must attain a certain level of phoneme awareness to benefit from formal reading instruction (e.g., Stanovich, 1986, 1994).
Several studies have emphasized teachers' knowledge and skills and on the importance of PA in reading acquisition (e.g., Kleeck, Gillam, & McFadden, 1998) as have by leading education agencies and organizations (e.g., American Federation of Teachers, 1999; Learning First Alliance, 2000; National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, 2000). For example, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2000) Report of the National Reading Panel revealed that providing early intervention in PA skills may significantly decrease later reading difficulties, improve early reading skills, and reduce the number of children who read below grade level. This emphasis, however, has not been met with an influx of research on what teachers know about language and reading and how they utilize their knowledge in teaching situations. Initial studies (e.g., McCutchen, Abbott, et al., 2002; McCutchen, Harry, et al., 2002; Moats & Foorman, 2003) revealed that many teachers were not knowledgeable about English phonology and orthography; they lack the sophisticated knowledge and skills of PA. Cunningham, Perry, Stanovich, and Stanovich (2004) found that teachers from kindergarten to third grade demonstrated limited knowledge of children' s literature, tended to overestimate their knowledge in PA and phonics, and were not aware of what they know and do not know. As a result, literacy development in young children may not be supported (especially among those at risk for developing reading problems) when teachers do not have sufficient knowledge and skills linked to beginning reading instruction.
Further studies raised some concern about the ability of teacher candidates to teach basic reading skills (e.g., Spear-Swerling & Brucker, 2006) and reported a scarcity of PA instruction in preschool classrooms (e.g., Phillips, Clancy-Menchetti, & Lonigan, 2008), such that teachers have not incorporated this instruction into their daily routine teaching practices. Spencer, Schuele, Guillot, and Lee (2008) compared the PA skills of groups of teachers and found that although speech and language pathologists performed better than other groups, their performance was not proficient. The authors found that the PA skills of reading and special education teachers were comparable to that of kindergarten and first-grade teachers. Spencer et al. recommended an increase in the PA skills of all teachers.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EXAMINING PA FOR ARABIC-SPEAKING CHILDREN IN THE CURRENT STUDY
The literature reviewed for the current study revealed that research into the various aspects of PA is available in English language and in English-speaking countries, such as the United States of America. This kind of research, however, is lacking in Arabic and in Arabic-speaking countries, particularly the United Arab Emirates (UAE), even with the knowledge that PA influences children's reading performances. We did not find studies in this area at the kindergarten level with Arabic-speaking teachers. The one study we found was conducted with elementary schoolteachers, and it reported that teachers in the first, second, and third grades had low levels of PA knowledge and skills and were not prepared to teach this important subject matter (Tibi, 2005). During our search, we found that the meager teaching materials used for teaching PA are translations from English language with adaptations to fit Arabic language. The scarcity of Arabic PA teaching materials and programs could be due to the fact that teaching PA was not incorporated into any level of education in this part of world. Until recently, the instructional focus has been on a whole-word approach to develop sight reading. With the exception of foreign schools (i.e., English or American schools), Arabic schools do not pay much attention to PA.
As components of the current curriculum for preschoolers in UAE are specified and mainstreamed to expose all students to the same contents and experiences, research that addresses teachers' knowledge and skills in PA is lacking. This issue takes the front stage when considering that new trends in education policies (e.g., The No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004) affect the Arab world as well. These education policies advocate direct and explicit teaching of language and academic competencies in systematic manners to raise student achievement. Thus, one of the goals of preschool education becomes helping children develop adequate PA skills to benefit from language instruction in later years. To achieve this goal, we wanted to know in this current study if Arab teachers have the requisite PA knowledge and skills, and whether they practice them in class to assist children in the area of reading.
Our current study provides an international perspective on teachers' knowledge, skills, and classroom practices in PA, focusing on the Arabic-speaking country of the UAE. It addresses questions related to whether or not significant differences exist between the teachers' knowledge domain, the skills domain, and the classroom practice domain in PA, based on years of teaching experience, the number of students in class, and in-service PA training. The current study also addresses the question of determining which variables significantly influence and account for the teachers' actual classroom practices.
We hypothesized that significant differences would be found among the three domains when examined in relation to years of teaching experience, the number of students in class, and the in-service PA training. We also hypothesized that the knowledge and skills domains are the variables that would account for a significant variance in teachers' classroom practices.
Participants were 83 female kindergarten public school teachers in the UAE. Of these, 25% had 1 to 3 years of teaching experience, 24% had 4 to 6 years of teaching experience, 23% had 7 to 9 years of teaching experience, and 28% had more than 10 years of teaching experience. Teachers' class sizes varied as well: 8% of the participants had a class load of 10 to 15 students, compared to 51% who had 16 to 21 students, 34% who had 22 to 27 students, and 7% with 28 students or more. Of the total sample, 22% mentioned they had training in PA, compared to 78% who did not. Forty-three participants (nearly 52%) were expatriates who had earned academic degrees from educational institutions located in other Arabic-speaking countries.
We employed two methods to collect the data for the current study. First, we used two forms of a 4-point Likert-type questionnaire: one gathered information on the teachers' knowledge of PA, whereas the other one was used to gauge the teacher's PA skills. The current study was informed by the mutual work of the first author and his colleague (Tibi, 2005) in the Department of Special Education at United Arab Emirates University. Both researchers constructed the questionnaire in Arabic, based upon extensive English literature in the field (i.e., Mather, Bos, & Babur, 2001; McCutchen, Abbott et al., 2002; Moats & Foorman, 2003; Spear-Swerling & Brucker, 2003). In the knowledge questionnaire form, participants responded to 18 items worded in Arabic. Responses on this form were 1 = do not know at all, 2 = know somewhat, 3 = know fairly, and 4 = know a lot.
The skills questionnaire consisted of the same 18 items from the knowledge questionnaire form (also worded in Arabic). Knowledge items, such as "I am familiar with drills on breaking words into syllables (e.g., telephone: te/le/phone)," were rephrased to become a skill item, such as "I do drills on breaking words into syllables (e.g., telephone : te/le/phone)." Participants were asked to rate each of the 18 items on a 4-point Likert-type scale to indicate bow often they performed these skills during teaching. Participants' responses were 1 = never perform, 2 = sometimes perform, 3 = often perform, and 4 = always perform. (See Table 1 for the 18 core items, which were reworded to reflect the knowledge, skills, and observation domains. For brevity purposes, we did not include separate tables for each domain.)
The knowledge form and the skills form of the questionnaire were given to six faculty members in the Special Education Department at UAE University, as well as to 15 special and general education teachers and supervisors at UAE Ministry of Education and Youth, for review and comments. Both forms of the questionnaire were revised based on the feedback obtained from this piloting process. The primary revision involved rewriting some items for clarity. Items in the knowledge form yielded a reliability coefficient alpha of .94, and those in the skills form yielded a reliability coefficient alpha of .89.
In addition, teachers in our sample were asked to provide further information on the number of years of teaching experience, whether or not they had training in PA, and the number of students in their classrooms.
The second method of data collection was observation, used to find whether participants practiced their self-reported PA skills during actual teaching situations. The first author conducted two observation training sessions for data collectors, one for supervisors and one for practicum students. Each training session lasted about 3 hours and covered steps of collecting data using the observation form. Data collectors were asked to observe and record the items mentioned in the phonological skills form that participants had already filled out (see the 18 core items mentioned in Table 1). Based on daily lesson plans and objectives, we estimated the need to conduct four consecutive observation periods for each of the 83 participants, over 4 days, to see if they modeled PA skills in class. Thus, the total number of observations totaled 332 sessions of group teaching, each of which lasted for a whole class period. The first author, along with 10 supervisors from three regional school districts and 13 practicum students from the college of education at UAE University, conducted the 332 observations in the second half of the school year. Supervisors collected data from their local schools, while practicum students collected data from the schools designated for their training. Only 10 random inter-rater reliability checks were conducted in the three school districts, yielding about 90% to 100% agreement between the two scores. Table 1 presents the 18 core items used for double-coding the classroom observations. Data collected from this interrater reliability process were used in the final analysis, due to the small number of participating teachers (i.e., 83).
Efforts had been exerted to minimize the time gaps between collecting data for knowledge, skills, and practice domains. Therefore, observation started no more than 1 to 2 weeks after the teachers had completed the knowledge and skills questionnaires.
The first author obtained permission from three regional school districts to distribute to potential participants the questionnaire knowledge form, followed by the questionnaire skills form. Once permission was granted, a cover letter was sent to that district's participants asking them if they were willing to take part in the last phase of the current study which involved classroom observations. The first author and/or one of the data collectors assured the participants that observations would be conducted in a confidential and anonymous manner. The first author sent 55 questionnaires to participating teachers, with the help of practicum students who were student teaching in these regional schools. He also sent 73 questionnaires through supervisors in these three school districts to obtain more participating teachers. He received responses from 104 out of 128 teachers. Of these, the authors excluded responses from 21 participants, due to missing information or to participants declining to take part in the classroom observation phase. The final number of participants involved in this study was 83 (about 65% of all initially targeted participants).
During observation periods, data collectors rated each of the 18 items mentioned in the skills form to indicate how often participating teachers practiced them throughout actual teaching. Since the items were originally on a 4-point Likert-type scale, data collectors' responses to participating teachers' classroom instructions ranged from 1 = never perform the stated skill to 4 = always perform the stated skill. Data collectors used one observation form for each observation session and computed, on a separate form, the average of marked responses for each of the 18 items, after the fourth observation session. This was one way to quantify the observation data for comparison purposes. Data collectors selected 4 = always perform as a response to skills practiced about four times and selected 3 = often perform if skills were practiced about three times. They selected 2 = sometimes perform if skills were practiced once or twice and selected the option 1 = never perform for any skill left unpracticed by the end of the fourth observation period. The data collectors focused on the frequency of skills taught in a class period and not on how much time the teachers took to teach each practiced skill. We did not use zero to indicate the absence of performance of PA skills, because observation was limited to four sessions (i.e., teachers received four ratings, one for each day), and we were not absolutely sure if teachers really did not perform these skills.
We calculated means and standard deviations for the knowledge, skills, and practice domains. Participants obtained the highest mean score in the knowledge domain (M = 58.60, SD = 14.13), then in the skills domain (M = 55.04, SD = 11.35) and finally in the practice domain (M = 39.30, SD = 8.28). We conducted three separate MANOVAs with repeated measures to examine the apparent differences in performances in the knowledge, skills, and practice domains in relation to the demographic variables. We used scores in the three domains as within-subjects variables and used each of the following demographic data as between-subjects variables: participants' years of teaching experience, number of students in class, and whether or not participants received in-service PA training.
We carried out the first MANOVA with repeated measures, using scores in the three domains as within-subjects variables and using participants' years of teaching experiences as between-subjects variables. We divided participants into four groups, based on teaching experience: 1 to 3 years of teaching experience formed the first group (n = 21), 4 to 6 years of teaching experience formed the second group (n = 20), 7 to 9 years of teaching experience formed the third group (n = 19), and 10 or more of teaching experience formed the fourth group (n = 23). The MANOVA analysis identified significant differences in the scores obtained in the three domains, Hotelling's F(2, 78) = 74.987, p < .001 (eta squared = .658), but the interaction of the three domains with participants' years of teaching experiences was not significant, Hotelling's F(6, 154) = .501, p =. 807 (eta squared = .019). Using Bonferroni follow-up procedure revealed significant differences between the knowledge and practice domains, the knowledge and skills domains, and the skills and practice domains. This indicates the existence of a significant gap among the three domains. Although the gap between knowledge and skills is small (mean difference = 3.56) but significant, the gaps between knowledge and practice (mean difference = 19.30) and between skills and practice (mean difference = 15.74) are significantly larger.
We performed the second MANOVA with repeated measures, using scores in the three domains as within-subjects variables and using the number of students in class as between-subjects variable. We divided participants into four groups, based on class loads: participants with a class load of 10 to 15 students formed the first group (n = 7), participants with a class load of 16 to 21 students formed the second group (n = 42), participants with a class load of 22 to 27 students formed the third group (n = 28), and those with a class load of 28 or more students formed the fourth group (n = 6). The MANOVA analysis showed significant differences in the scores obtained in the three domains, Hotelling's F(2, 78) = 45.982, p < .001 (eta squared = .541), but the interaction of the three domains with class loads was not significant, Hotelling's F(6, 154) = .575, p = .750 (eta squared = .022). Using Bonferroni follow-up procedure revealed significant differences between the knowledge and practice domains, the knowledge and skills domains, and the skills and practice domains.
For the last MANOVA analysis with repeated measures, we used scores in the three domains as within-subjects variables and whether or not participants received in-service training in PA as between-subjects variable. Those who received PA training formed the first group (n = 18) and those who did not formed the second group (n = 65). MANOVA analysis showed significant differences in the scores obtained in the three domains, Hotelling's F(2, 80) = 46.887, p < .001 (eta squared = .540), but the interaction of the three domains with whether or not participants received in-service training in PA was not significant, Hotelling's F(2, 80) = .634, p =. 533 (eta squared = .016). The Bonferroni follow-up procedure revealed no significant differences between scores in the knowledge and skills domains, but scores in these two self-reported domains were significantly higher than scores obtained by conducting classroom observations (i.e., the practice domain). It seems that the in-service training variable, unlike years of teaching experience and class loads variables, has an effect in the current study.
We calculated Pearson product-moment correlations to identify any significant correlations among the knowledge, skills, practice, years of teaching experience, number of students in class, and in-service PA training variables (see Table 2). Table 2 shows significant correlations only between the knowledge and skills domains (r = .69, p < .001) and between the skills and practice domains (r = .28, p < .010), an indication that a gap exists between teachers' self-reported knowledge and their practice. The table reveals that years of teaching experience, number of students in class, and in-service PA training variables are not significantly associated with the knowledge, skills, and practice domains.
We calculated another Pearson product-moment correlations between items used in the knowledge and skills domains, knowledge and practice domains, and skills and practice domains, to identify which items show significant correlations across domains. Table 1 shows four items correlating significantly in the knowledge and practice domains. This means about 22% of what teachers know, based on teachers' self-reported knowledge in PA, are associated with actual classroom practices. Table 1 also shows eight items correlating significantly between the skills and practice domains. This means about 44% of the skills that teachers think they possess is being related to actual classroom practices. Finally, Table 1 shows 17 items correlating significantly between the knowledge and skills domains, representing about 94% of teachers' self-reported knowledge. This table shows three items, representing about 17%, correlating significantly across the three domains. These three items represented the knowledge and skills that are significantly practiced during actual teaching. These correlation results appear to indicate disparity in teachers' self-reported knowledge and skills, compared to their actual teaching practices. It appears that classroom observation is the key to determine whether or not teachers practice their self-reported knowledge and skills.
We conducted a multiple regression analysis to determine the variables that may account for teachers' PA practice during teaching. We entered practice scores as the dependent variable and entered years of teaching experience, number of students in class, scores in the skills and knowledge domains and whether or not teachers received in-service PA training as predictors into the regression equation. Table 3 shows that the multiple regression equation predicting practice scores was significant and that the skills domain was the only variable that accounted for a significant amount of unique variance.
We conducted the current study to examine differences in PA in terms of knowledge, skills, and practice in a sample of kindergarten teachers. We examined these probable differences in relation to teachers' years of teaching experiences, class loads, and in-service training. We further looked at the variables that could plausibly influence and account for a significant variance in PA classroom practices. Results showed significant differences between the knowledge and practice domains, the knowledge and skills domains, and the skills and practice domains, regardless of years of teaching experience and the number of students in class. When scores in the three domains were examined in relation to whether or not participants had in-service training, results revealed no significant differences between scores in the knowledge and skills domains but did show that scores in these two domains were significantly higher than scores in the practice domain.
These results reveal a gap between the knowledge and skills domains, on the one hand, and the classroom practice domain, on the other hand. This gap is an indication that participants did not apply a significant portion of their knowledge and skills during their classroom teaching. This conclusion could be related to the fact that about half of the participating teachers studied in different countries in the Middle East region and therefore followed different study plans during the course of their teacher preparation program. The correlations results reported in Table 1 showing disparity in teachers' self-reported knowledge and skills vis-a-vis their actual teaching practices resonate throughout the literature and are not limited to this current study. Mather et al. (2001) reported that although in-service teachers outperformed preservice teachers in their knowledge of the structure of the English language, neither group had sufficient knowledge about concepts of English language structure and phonics terminology, and neither was well prepared to handle the instructional needs of children with reading difficulties. Mather and colleagues revealed in their study a disparity between teachers' beliefs that they ought to know how to teach PA and phonics, on the one hand, and their preparation and readiness for this task, on the other hand (see also Spear-Swerling & Brucker, 2006).
The current study revealed that the in-service training variable, unlike the years of teaching experience and class loads variables, affected the result of the current study. This variable showed a moderating effect on the self-reported knowledge and skills, but not on the observed practices. An explanation of the no significant effect for the in-service training variable on classroom practices could be due to the small number of participants (n = 18, constituting about 22% of the total 83 participants) who had such training. We found in the current study that the majority of teachers with the most teaching experience did not have in-service training. This is apparent when we divided participants into groups based on years of teaching experience and on whether or not they received in-service PA training. We found 4 (i.e., about 17%) out of 23 participants had in-service training in the group that had 10 years or more of teaching experience; 2 (i.e., about 11%) out of 19 participants had in-service training in the group that had 7 to 9 years of teaching experience; 5 (25%) out of 20 participants had in-service training in the group that had 4 to 6 years of teaching experience; and 7 (33%) out of 21 participants had in-service training in the group that had 1 to 3 years of teaching experience. This grouping of participants shows a trend that those with less teaching experience had more in-service PA training compared to those with more teaching experience. This could be due to the modest awareness of the importance of PA in kindergarten education among the relatively new teachers compared to veteran ones who, unexpectedly, did not show marked and significant PA classroom practices.
The importance of teachers' in-service training for children's achievement comes from our literature review, which indicates that students of teachers who received extensive professional in-service training outperformed students of other teachers (Carpenter, Fennema, Peterson, Chiang, & Loef, 1989). Teachers' in-service training positively influenced students' achievement, and teachers with better grasp of their content area (after receiving training) have affected students' learning the most (Kennedy, 1998). Foorman and Moats (2004) documented that in-service professional development, when conducted appropriately, improved children's academic outcomes, led to in-depth insight into the process of teaching reading, and made material support available to teachers. Implementing better programs in this area requires adequate answers to many questions, including the important elements of in-service training, the frequency of coaching or mentoring needed to influence students' learning, and determining the location (i.e., school-based or off-site) of in-service training (Wayne, Yoon, Zhu, Cronen, & Garet, 2008).
The lack of significant effects of class loads on teachers' self-reported knowledge and skills, and on the observed classroom teaching practices, indicate that practicing PA is not significantly influenced by the number of students in class. Practicing PA could take place in any size classes. Whether students have a better chance of learning and mastering PA skills regardless of their numbers in class, however, is another issue. As a rule, students have a better chance of learning and mastering PA in small classes, compared to large ones, due to frequent assistance, supervision, monitoring, and attention to their work and progress during the learning process. Classes with small numbers of students guarantee more time devoted to each student when teachers introduce skills, request in-class task completion, check and recheck work and understanding, solicit answers, and demand modeling of a presented skill. Phillips et al. (2008) reported important findings in this regard. They found that individual or small-group, explicit instruction is very effective in teaching PA to schoolchildren. No evidence was found on the effectiveness of whole-group and implicit instruction of PA.
Results of the current study revealed that only teachers' reported skills in PA accounted for a significant variance in their classroom practices. It appears that PA knowledge does not automatically and naturally translate to PA classroom practices. What leads to practicing PA in class are skills in PA. This gap between knowledge and practice is reminiscent of the gap between research and practice, whereby knowledge drawn from research findings is not routinely practiced in classroom settings (A1-Hilawani, 2003). It appears that mastering needed skills, which leads to students' enhanced performance, is one of the important requirements that can help bridge the gap between knowledge and practice.
This current study suggests that inadequate teacher-preparation programs manifested by disparity in knowledge, skills, and classroom practices concerning PA could negatively influence students' reading performance in subsequent grade levels. Research suggests that proper preparation of teachers helps children, including children at risk, develop adequate reading skills (e.g., Bos, Mather, Narr, & Babur, 1999; McCutchen & Berninger, 1999; O'Connor, 1999). Given the accumulated knowledge on the importance of teaching phonological awareness and phonics--not only to normally developing children, but also to struggling readers, including those with dyslexia--it becomes imperative that teachers gain the foundational practical knowledge and skills necessary to provide early systematic reading instruction to diverse learners. Thus, evaluating teacher-preparation programs in the area of reading is critical if we are to ensure a balanced instruction to all children, special and non-special-education students alike (Chard & Osborn, 1999; Moats, 2000). Research (e.g., Bos et al., 1999; McCutchen, Abbott et al., 2002) showed that teachers who have proper preparation can provide children with better instruction and change classroom practices to improve students' learning opportunities. Knowing that good readers have better PA and can manipulate phonemes more effectively than children with reading difficulties (see Humphrey & Hanley, 2004; Wood, 2000) makes preparing teachers to teach and train students in PA essential to children's reading acquisition (see National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000).
The current study has several limitations. The self-reporting technique was used to collect the data, with observations of classroom practices being limited to four times. Although the focus of data collectors was on rating how often participating teachers practiced PA skills during the actual teaching process, the teachers were also introducing other content from the kindergarten (KG) curriculum to students, and so their attention could have been diverted from introducing more of PA skills. Future research may extend observation periods, focus on the duration of teaching each skill in class (i.e., determining the time teachers took to teach each skill in class), and cover more aspects of PA assessment by including further items on knowledge, skills, and practice, the results of which constitute a constructed tool suitable for research and classroom observations.
PA is positively associated with decoding skills and considered an important predictor and indicator of early reading and spelling development (see Ball & Blachman, 1991; Brady, Fowler, Stone, & Winbury, 1994; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1991; Rack, Snowling, & Olsen, 1992; Stanovich, 1992, 1994; Torgesen & Wagner, 1998, for reviews). Thus, ignoring teaching PA at the kindergarten level will be a disservice to children. Along with this line of thought, assessing PA is also important. Vloedgraven and Verhoeven (2007) stressed the need to assess PA in kindergarten and in the early half of first grade to identify early reading problems such as dyslexia. Authors stated that assessment is required to differentiate PA problems stemming from instructional deficits from those due to cognitive deficits, to provide appropriate interventions.
We need to prepare teachers who have the knowledge and skills to practice PA. Teachers then would be more likely to deliver appropriate teaching and assessment services and make more children ready for decoding skills and reduce, as a result, the number of those experiencing reading failure. Spear-Swerling and Brucker (2006) reported a gap in preteachers' knowledge of word structure and found that those who received instruction in this area outperformed, when posttested, those who did not receive such instruction. Preparing teachers who understand how knowledge, skills, and practice concerning PA relates to literacy instruction also could be achieved by designing, for example, performance-based teacher preparation programs that conform to the standards and principles of such organizations as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC). Reviewing the standards and principles of these two U.S.-based education organizations to design teacher-preparation programs reveals that practicing knowledge and skills are at the center of accredited teacher preparation programs that prepare highly competent teachers. The standards and principles of these two organizations indicate that teachers must be not only knowledgeable in subject matter content, but also skilled in delivering this content to children. These standards and principles reveal clearly that reaching the desired level of performance-based teaching is feasible through structuring meaningful outcome-oriented field experiences, coaching, ongoing feedback, intensive training, consultations, collaborations, and professional development programs. This leads to one important implication, which is that teachers must be not only knowledgeable, but also practitioners who know and are able to do whatever is necessary to ensure students' mastery of presented knowledge and skills through meaningful engagement and practice.
Restructuring teacher-preparation programs based on the standards and principles of specialty organizations surely helps overcome some of the obstacles to effective instruction. It reduces the significant gap between what teachers perceive they know and could do, on the one hand, and their actual classroom practices, on the other hand. It would be interesting to replicate this study to determine whether the new kindergarten teachers who are graduating from the college of education at United Arab Emirates University, and who are replacing retiring and expatriate teachers, are better practitioners of PA skills after the college of education has restructured its academic programs to meet NCATE standards.
Submitted May 19, 2009; accepted August 17, 2009.
Al-Hilawani, Y. (2003). Clinical examination of three methods of teaching reading comprehension to deaf and hard-of-hearing students: From research to classroom applications. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 8(2), 146-156.
American Federation of Teachers. (1999). Teaching reading is a rocket science. Washington, DC: Author.
Anthony, J. L., & Francis, D. J. (2005). Development of phonological awareness. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 255-259.
Ball, E. W., & Blachman, B. A. (1991). Does phoneme awareness training in kindergarten make a difference in early word recognition and developmental spelling? Reading Research Quarterly, 26, 49-66.
Blachman, B. A., Tangel, D. M., Ball, E. W., Black, R., & McGraw, C. K. (1999). Developing phonological awareness and word recognition skills: A two-year intervention with low-income, inner-city children. Reading and Writing, 11, 239-273.
Bos, C., Mather, N., Narr, R. F., & Babur, N. (1999). Interactive, collaborative professional development in early literacy instruction: Supporting the balancing act. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 14, 215-226.
Bradley, L., & Bryant, P. E. (1983). Categorizing sounds and learning to read--A causal connection. Nature, 301, 419-421.
Brady, S., Fowler, A., Stone, B., & Winbury, N. (1994). Training phonological awareness: A study with inner-city kindergarten children. Annals of Dyslexia, 44, 26-59.
Byrne, B., & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1991). Evaluation of a program to teach phonemic awareness to young children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83, 451-455.
Byrne, B., & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1993). Evaluation of a program to teach phonemic awareness to young children: A 1 -year follow-up. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 104-111.
Carpenter, T. P., Fennema, E., Peterson, P. L., Chiang, C. P., & Loef, M. (1989). Using knowledge of children's mathematics thinking in classroom teaching: An experimental study. American Educational Research Journal, 26, 499-531.
Chard, D. J., & Osborn, J. (1999). Phonics and word recognition instruction in early reading programs: Guidelines for accessibility. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 14, 107-117.
Cunningham, A. E., Perry, K. E., Stanovich, K. E., & Stanovich, P. J. (2004). Disciplinary knowledge of K-3 teachers and their knowledge calibration in the domain of early literacy. Annals of Dyslexia, 54(1), 139-166.
Dickinson, D. K., & Tabors, P. O. (2001). Beginning literacy with language. Baltimore: Brookes.
Foorrnan, B. R., & Moats, L. C. (2004). Conditions for sustaining research-based practices in early reading instruction. Remedial and Special Education, 25(1), 51-60.
Humphrey, N., & Hanley, J. R. (2004). The role of orthographic analogies in reading for meaning: Evidence from readers with dyslexia. Journal of Research in Reading, 27, 265-280.
Justice, L. M., & Ezell, H. K. (2001). Written language awareness in preschool children from low-income households: A descriptive analysis. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 22, 123-134.
Justice, L. M., & Pullen, P. C. P. (2003). Promising intervention for promoting emergent literacy skills: Three evidence-based approaches. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 23, 99-114.
Kennedy, M. (1998). Form and substance of inservice teacher education (Research Monograph No. 13). Madison: University of Wisconsin-Madison, National Institute for Science Education.
Kleeck, A. V., Gillam, R. B., & McFadden, T. U. (1998). A study of classroom-based phonological awareness training for preschoolers with speech and/or language disorders. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 7, 65-76.
Learning First Alliance. (2000). Every child reading: A professional development guide. Washington, DC: Author.
Lonigan, C. J., Burgess, S. R., & Anthony, J. L. (2000). Development of emergent literacy and early reading skills in preschool children: Evidence from a latent-variable longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 36, 596-613.
Lyon, G., & Moats, L. C. (1997). Critical conceptual and methodological considerations in reading intervention research. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30, 578-588.
Mather, N., Bos, C., & Babur, N. (2001). Perceptions and knowledge of preservice and inservice teachers about early literacy instruction. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 34, 472-482.
McCutchen, D., Abbott, R. D., Green, L. B., Beretvas, S. N., Cox, S., Potter, N. S., et al. (2002). Beginning literacy: Links among teacher knowledge, teacher practice, and student learning. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 69-86.
McCutchen, D., & Berninger, V. W. (1999). Those who know, teach well: Helping teachers master literacy-related subject-matter knowledge. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 14, 215-226.
McCutchen, D., Harry, D. R., Cunningham, A. E., Cox, S., Sidman, S., & Covill, A. E. (2002). Reading teachers' knowledge of children's literature and English phonology. Annals of Dyslexia, 52,207-226.
Moats, L. C. (2000). Whole language lives on: The illusion of "balanced" reading instruction. New York: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
Moats, L. C., & Foorman, B. R. (2003). Measuring teachers' content knowledge of language and reading. Annals of Dyslexia, 53, 23-45.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implication for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities. (2000). Professional development for teachers: A report from the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities. Learning Disabilities Quarterly, 23, 2-6.
O'Connor, R. (1999). Teachers learning Ladders to Literacy. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 14(4), 203-214.
Peterson, M. E., & Haines, L. P. (1992). Orthographic analogy training with kindergarten children: Effects on analogy use, phonemic segmentation, and letter-sound knowledge. Journal of Reading Behavior, 24, 109-127.
Phillips, B. M., Clancy-Menchetti, J., & Lonigan, C. J. (2008). Successful phonological awareness instruction with preschool children: Lessons from the classroom. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 28(1), 3-17.
Pratt, C., & Brady, S. (1988). Relationship of phonological awareness to reading disability in children and adults. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 319-323.
Rack, J. P., Snowling, M. J., & Olsen, R. K. (1992). The nonword reading deficit in developmental dyslexia: A review. Reading Research Quarterly, 27(1), 29-53.
Spear-Swerling, L., & Brucker, P. O. (2003). Teachers' acquisition of knowledge about English word structure. Annals of Dyslexia, 53, 72-103.
Spear-Swerling, L., & Brucker, P. O. (2006). Teacher-education students' reading abilities and their knowledge about word structure. Teacher Education and Special Education, 29(2), 116-126.
Spencer, E. J., Schuele, C. M., Guillot, K. M., & Lee, M. W. (2008). Phonemic awareness skill of speech-language pathologists and other educators. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 39, 512-520.
Stanovich, K. E. (1986). Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 21,360-407.
Stanovich, K. E. (1991). Conceptual and empirical problems with discrepancy definitions of reading disabilities. Learning Disabilities Quarterly, 14, 269-280.
Stanovich, K. E. (1992). Speculations on the causes and consequences of individual differences in early reading acquisition. In P. B. Gough, L. C. Ehri, & R. Treiman (Eds.), Reading acquisition (pp. 307-342). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Stanovich, K. E. (1994). Romance and reality. Reading Teacher, 47, 280-291.
Tibi, S. (2005). Teachers' knowledge and skills in phonological awareness in United Arab Emirates. International Journal of Special Education, 20(1), 60-66.
Torgesen, J. K. (2002). The prevention of reading difficulties. Journal of School Psychology, 40(1), 7-26.
Torgesen, J. K., & Wagner, R. K. (1998). Alternative diagnostic approaches for specific developmental reading disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 13, 220-232.
Vloedgraven, J. M. T., & Verhoeven, L. (2007). Screening of phonological awareness in the early elementary grades: An IRT approach. Annals of Dyslexia, 57, 33-50.
Wayne, A. J., Yoon, K. S., Zhu, P., Cronen, S., & Garet, M. S. (2008). Experimenting with teacher professional development: Motives and methods. Educational Researcher, 37, 469-479.
Wood, C. (1999). The contribution of analogical problem solving and phonemic awareness to children's ability to make orthographic analogies when reading. Educational Psychology, 19, 277-286.
Wood, C. (2000). Rhyme awareness, orthographic analogy use, phonemic awareness and reading: An examination of relationships. Educational Psychology, 20, 5-15.
Emad M. Alghazo
Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman
Yasser A. Al-Hilawani
Kuwait University, Kaifan, Kuwait
Address correspondence to Dr. Yasser A. Al-Hilawani, Department of Educational Psychology, College of Education, Kuwait University, P.O. Box 13281, Kaifan, Code No. 71953, Kuwait. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
TABLE 1 Pearson Product-Moment Correlations Between Knowledge, Skills, and Practice Domains Correlations Between Variables Knowledge and Knowledge Core Items Skills and Practice 1. Breaking words into syllables .79 ** p < .001 .17 p = .130 (e.g., telephone: te. le. phone) 2. Breaking words into sounds .69 ** p < .001 .13 p = .251 (e.g.. cat: "k. a. P") 3. Blending syllables (e.g., te. .62 ** p < .001 .23 * p < .03 le. phone: telephone) 4. Blending sounds to form words .52 ** p < .001 16 p =. 150 (e.g., k.a.t: cat) 5. Drilling on rhyming words .69 ** p < .001 .12 p = .267 (e.g., bat, rat, mat /cup) 6. Drilling on detecting the first .47 ** p < .001 -.05 p = .633 sound in a word (e.g., "k": car) 7. Drilling on detecting the last .56 ** p < .001 .14 p = .200 sound in a word (e.g., "g": clog) 8. Forming meaningful words out of .47 ** p < .001 .08 p = .487 letters sequenced randomly (e.g., r-a-c: car) 9. Reversing letters to form .50 ** p < .001 .18 P =. 111 meaningful words (e.g., Dog: god; mug: gum) 10. Using different colors to .53 ** p < .001 -.05 p = .682 represent different letters in a word (e.g., Using the [d] letter in the word Dad in a red block and the [a] letter in a blue block) 11. Using nursery rhymes in class .60 ** p < .001 .01 P = .900 12. Using storybooks that contain .43 ** p < .001 .21 p = .06 rhymes (e.g., Dr. Seuss) 13. Using tapes to teach letters, .57 ** p < .001 .41 ** p < .001 rhymes, and other activities related to literacy. 14. Using flashcards to introduce .67 ** p < .001 -.01 p = .964 new vocabulary 15. Asking students to copy texts .21 p = .06 .13 p = .244 from books 16. Asking students to use new .30 ** p < .006 -.20 p = .06 vocabularies in sentences 17. Requesting students to write .37 ** p < .001 .23 * p <.04 their own stories 18. Giving a spelling test at .50 ** p < .001 .24 * p < .03 least once a week Correlations Between Variables Skill and Core Items Practice 1. Breaking words into syllables 33 ** p < .002 (e.g., telephone: te. le. phone) 2. Breaking words into sounds -.01 p = .918 (e.g.. cat: "k. a. P") 3. Blending syllables (e.g., te. .49 ** p < .001 le. phone: telephone) 4. Blending sounds to form words .44 ** p < .001 (e.g., k.a.t: cat) 5. Drilling on rhyming words .39 ** p < .001 (e.g., bat, rat, mat /cup) 6. Drilling on detecting the first -.11 p = .334 sound in a word (e.g., "k": car) 7. Drilling on detecting the last .14 p = .208 sound in a word (e.g., "g": clog) 8. Forming meaningful words out of .23 * p < .04 letters sequenced randomly (e.g., r-a-c: car) 9. Reversing letters to form .08 p = .490 meaningful words (e.g., Dog: god; mug: gum) 10. Using different colors to .05 p = .683 represent different letters in a word (e.g., Using the [d] letter in the word Dad in a red block and the [a] letter in a blue block) 11. Using nursery rhymes in class .02 p = .861 12. Using storybooks that contain .64 ** p < .001 rhymes (e.g., Dr. Seuss) 13. Using tapes to teach letters, .54 ** p < .001 rhymes, and other activities related to literacy. 14. Using flashcards to introduce .08 p = .497 new vocabulary 15. Asking students to copy texts -.02 p = .863 from books 16. Asking students to use new .21 p = .06 vocabularies in sentences 17. Requesting students to write .05 p = .672 their own stories 18. Giving a spelling test at .37 ** least once a week P < .001 * p < .05, ** p <.01. TABLE 2 Pearson Product-Moment Correlations Among the Knowledge Domain, the Skills Domain, the Practice Domain, Years of Teaching Experience, the Number of Students in Class, and the In-service Phonological Awareness Training Variables 1 2 3 1. Knowledge domain 1.00 2. Skills domain .69 ** 1.00 3. Practice domain .09 .28 * 1.00 4. Years of teaching experience .11 .03 -.08 5. Number of students in class .04 .02 .16 6. In-service phonological awareness training .09 .02 -.07 Variables 4 5 6 1. Knowledge domain 2. Skills domain 3. Practice domain 4. Years of teaching experience 1.00 5. Number of students in class .04 1.00 6. In-service phonological awareness training .17 .09 1.00 * p < .05, ** p < .01. TABLE 3 Multiple Regression Analysis With Practice Domain as the Dependent Variable Predictor Beta t R Practice scores as the criterion variable l. Skills domain 0.407 2.764 * 2. Knowledge domain -0.182 -1.222 3. Years of teaching experience -0.062 -0.574 4. Number of students in class 0.163 1.531 5. In-service training in phonological awareness -0.066 -0.612 Constant 4.475 ** Overall 0.364 Adjusted Predictor [R.sup.2] [R.sup.2] Overall F Practice scores as the criterion variable l. Skills domain 2. Knowledge domain 3. Years of teaching experience 4. Number of students in class 5. In-service training in phonological awareness Constant Overall 0.133 0.077 2.36 ** p < .01, ** p < .001.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Knowledge, Skills, and Practices concerning Phonological Awareness among Early Childhood Education Teachers. Contributors: Alghazo, Emad M. - Author, Hilawani, Yasser A. Al- - Author. Journal title: Journal of Research in Childhood Education. Volume: 24. Issue: 2 Publication date: April-June 2010. Page number: 172+. © 2009 Association for Childhood Education International. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.